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After the Year Two EcoCAR competition, the OSU team took some time to recover while the vehicle and supplies were being shipped home. Now that the OSU team is well rested, they are gearing up for Year Three and anxious to prove that their design and vehicle are worthy of the 5th place honors received at the Year Two EcoCAR Challenge Competition.

The team kicked off the summer by improving the EcoCAR’s power output and getting the front powertrain working. A major focus was trying new calibrations for boosting the power and current from the primary electric drive. This yielded immediate satisfaction with better performance. Now with a better performing vehicle and the completed systems from competition, the team showed off the EcoCAR to teammates and university officials that had not seen it since before competition. The OSU team’s next priority was to take on the much anticipated troubleshooting of the front powertrain. During competition, the front powertrain was not working and left the team with a short range electric vehicle, which was certainly not part of the plan. However, the troubleshooting is now moving in the right direction. The team only spent a few hours working on the electric machine and wiring issues before the system was fully up and running.

Under the hood of the OSU EcoCAR!

Now that the OSU team has the system running as planned, the summer has been devoted to various controls efforts and lots of testing and tuning. The team hopes to gain a big advantage in Year Three and is looking forward to seeing their own progress compared to the other teams!

While the EcoCAR teams were in Yuma for the Year Two Finals, MotorWeek was on hand filming in the pits during the safety and technical inspections and interviewing representatives from the Department of Energy, General Motors and Argonne National Laboratory to get a real feel for what the competition is all about.

The finished piece aired last week and came out great. Check it out below!

When the Penn State EcoCAR team arrived in Pennsylvania after the Year Two competition and settled into summer mode, they focused on three priorities for June, July and August. In addition to evaluating their Year Two results and planning for Year Three, the team had to clean and organize the garage and labs. While spending hours going through boxes and cleaning top to bottom, the team came across a few items that brought back memories and served as a friendly reminder of Year Two.

The team found safety glasses in every nook and cranny of their workspace. The glasses reminded them that no matter how engrossed they are in their work, safety is always number one at Penn State, whether in the garage or at competition. In fact, the team members who went to competition placed in the top six for performing the “Safety Dance” on skit night, a performance complete with bright orange safety vests, hard hats and even the running-man dance!

When walking into the garage, a barely visible car bench seat, about as long as a small couch, peeks out from behind a corner. No one would understand the importance of the seat like the team members who pulled all-nighters working in the garage. The seat is a token of the long hours the team puts in during the wee hours of the morning, displaying diligence and perseverance. Outreach Coordinator, Dana Bubonovich, even pulled an all-nighter to show support for the late night regulars!

An all-nighter in the garage!

The team also found an extendable magnet in a bin from competition. The magnet is tiny, but important tool that reminds them of how they faced adversity in a tense situation and overcame it. Penn State was on the cusp of being the first team to pass safety/tech inspection in Yuma, when a team member accidentally dropped a tiny washer into the power inverter module. It took the team six hours and several clever inventions to retrieve the washer, including a Shop-Vac, zip ties, a Borescope, duct tape and LED lights, and a variety of magnets. GM supervisor, Tom Garcia, eventually fetched the washer with a claw, and the team is forever grateful for his help.

PSU team member, Marty Lechner, using the extendable magnet to get to the washer

Sitting on the back wall of the Penn State garage is a mill, often overlooked except for when it needs to be used. The mill is an icon of all the time and labor that goes into building the vehicle. The mill created mounts that hold essential components in place, so the team’s EcoCAR can drive smoothly. It is a reminder of the tedious focus needed to build a car because of the constant realization that one small error could cause a detrimental fault in the vehicle. Mounts created on the mill keeps the vehicle in tact, much like teamwork and dedication holds the Penn State team together to accomplish its goals.

While organizing the labs, the team discovered a couple LiveGreen bracelets lying around from its outreach influencer campaign. The keepsakes continue to remind the team that the EcoCAR competition has an end goal to reduce emissions, resulting in a greener earth for future generations. The bracelets are a symbol of reaching out to the public to proudly display what the EcoCAR competition is all about: green technologies and a clean environment.

The Nittany Lion showing off the LiveGreen bracelet!

One thing that is still on the team’s mind is the air conditioner compressor that they couldn’t quite finish at competition; not only because of the hot summer temperatures, but because it is a reminder of the work to come in Year Three. In the final year of the EcoCAR competition, the Penn State team will have new faces mixed with veterans, and will be prepared for obstacles, long nights and, of course, fun. The team has regrouped, reorganized and planned for Year Three by setting new goals and deadlines. The first item they will tackle is the air conditioner, and Mother Nature will make sure the first goal is soon accomplished!

The Penn State team is looking forward to the new challenges and memories of Year Three and will never forget the great accomplishments of Years One and Two!

This week’s Mentor Monday post features Bill Beggs, an engineering group manager at GM. Bill has been an Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition mentor for six years, first with Challenge X and now with the Mississippi State University EcoCAR team.  Bill has visited MSU twice in the past year, once last fall and once prior to the Year Two competition, to offer advice and assist the students with their EREV.  The team was extremely successful in Year Two and their efforts were both recognized and rewarded in San Diego with a first place win in the overall competition. 

During the EcoCAR Year One fall workshop, GM mentor Bill Beggs delivers a check for seed money to the MSU team leader, Matthew Doude

“It was great seeing all the teams’ efforts at the Year Two Finals in May,” said Bill.  “I’m proud of my team for winning, but it’s also inspiring to see the work of the other teams, too.”
Bill is looking forward to traveling to Mississippi later this year to check in on the team’s status in the third and final year of EcoCAR. 

“It makes a huge difference when you get face time with the students,” said Bill. “I love meeting individually with everyone on the team, seeing the vehicle first hand and talking through any issues they may have.  You just can’t get that kind of interaction over the phone or through email.” 

In Year Three, MSU is focused on vehicle refinement, which includes improving drive quality and optimizing fuel economy.  The students are also looking to incorporate after-market consumer electronic features, such as touch screens, into the console of their car.
Bill has worked for GM for 10 years.  Based in the Energy Center in Milford, MI, his current project focuses on the development and execution of more efficient fuel economies. 

“Basically, our goal is to achieve the best possible fuel efficiency we can for consumers,” he said.  “With all the new advances in vehicle technology, it’s an exciting field to be a part of right now.”

This year, Virginia Tech awarded over 300 students with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering.  While most chose to work in defense in the Washington, D.C. area, many chose another career path.  This year, over a third of the students who worked on the Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team of Virginia Tech as a senior design project for EcoCAR Year Two have secured various automotive jobs with Liebherr Mining Equipment, Altec Industries, General Motors and Ford Motor Company.  Five students on the team chose to work at General Motors, a headline sponsor of the EcoCAR Challenge, along with the Department of Energy.  These students chose to work for GM because of the information learned in creating an extended range electric vehicle that uses stored grid electricity and E85 fuel for propulsion.  While the EcoCAR students have only been working for a few weeks, they are already deep into their new assignments. Of the five students at GM, HEVT placed two in full-time positions.

Brian Fiore is currently working full-time with General Motors in the Powertrain department at the Milford Proving Grounds.  His official title is “6-Speed Algorithm Design Development Engineer”, which means that he works on the design and calibration of 6-speed transmissions.  This work involves writing code in C and then testing the code changes on a transmission controller in a physical vehicle.

Michael Kearney is working in Hybrid Vehicle Integration.  In Human Interface Displays and Gauges, he will be helping develop and test the algorithms being implemented in the hybrid driver displays for the Chevy Volt (such as EV range, efficiency, and charging) and upcoming PHEV and BAS+ (Belted Alternator Starter) platforms.

Four students are working as summer interns before returning to graduate school at VT.

Jesse Alley is working in the new state-of-the-art Battery Systems Lab in Warren, MI testing the air-cooled battery pack for the Chevrolet Volt. The goal of his work is to characterize the thermal management system at the pack level. Because the pack is the first of its kind and more are sure to follow, a secondary goal is to develop a methodology for characterizing the thermal system of a liquid-cooled battery pack.

Jonathan King is developing and testing a new optimization strategy for the BAS+ mild hybrid system. He will work on adapting the code developed for two and four mode transmissions to the BAS+ system. This will involve expanding the code to work with six gears and handle torque converter dynamics. The goal of the project is to determine whether fuel efficiency can be improved through the use of this system.

Lynn Gantt is working on Hardware-in-the-Loop validation for ABS (Antilock Brakes) and stability control validation for vehicles that are completely in math.  With this philosophy, GM can build a few test vehicle variations and validate the remaining combinations (several hundred) using lab tests.  His role as Team Leader prepared him for the global scope of his work with Korea on the Chevy Spark and Aveo.

Patrick Walsh has worked in the automotive industry before but this summer chose to spend it at Argonne National Laboratory as a research aide.  He is working on comparing the new, third generation (2010) Toyota Prius drive train to that of a second generation (2004) Prius. The end goal of the research is to determine where improvements or differences in performance or efficiency were achieved in the new model. The majority of Patrick’s time is spent in the Advanced Powertrain Research Facility, which includes a state-of-the-art 4WD chassis dynamometer capable of simulating vehicle road loads.

School may be out for summer, but that didn’t stop two universities from welcoming political figures to their respective campuses this month to discuss the EcoCAR Challenge and their shared interest in clean vehicle technology.

Last week, U.S. Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) paid a visit to the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and met with the EcoCAR team to learn about innovations in hybrid vehicle technology.

U.S. Senator Richard Lugar gets an update on Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology’s EcoCAR hybrid vehicle development project from faculty advisors Marc Herniter (left) and Zac Chambers.

During the visit, EcoCAR co-faculty advisors, Zac Chambers, associate professor of mechanical engineering, and Marc Herniter, professor of electrical and computer engineering, presented an update on the Rose-Hulman team’s hybrid vehicle, which received technology and appearance awards in the Year Two Finals in May.

Last week, the Mississippi State University EcoCAR team got a chance to catch up with longtime supporter Congressman Gregg Harper (R-MS) at an MSU Alumni Extravaganza. Rep. Harper and his family have shown great interest in the EcoCAR Challenge. At the event, Rep. Harper checked out the team’s vehicle, asked questions and expressed how proud he is of the MSU team. He even mentioned that he’d like to see the car in Washington, D.C. at the end of Year Three.

U.S. Congressman Gregg Harper with MSU outreach coordinator Lee Pratt.

The MSU team also had the privilege to spend the day with a local political figure, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. For the governor’s recent campus visit, the MSU EcoCAR team displayed their current vehicle as well as MSU’s champion Challenge X vehicle. Governor Barbour asked questions and expressed an interest in the EcoCAR’s plug-in technology and congratulated the team for placing first in the Year Two Finals.

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour with MSU EcoCAR team members

When leaders like Senator Lugar, Congressman Harper and Governor Barbour make campus visits and attend EcoCAR events, they are acknowledging the efforts of the hardworking EcoCAR teams and showing their support. We hope that public figures and opinion leaders continue to learn more about EcoCAR and use their notoriety to boost public awareness of advanced vehicle technology.

Read more about Gov. Barbour’s visit to MSU and Sen. Lugar’s visit to Rose-Hulman.

Since she was a young girl, Beth Bezaire has had a fascination with science and the way things work. She attended summer camps lead by female engineers, took additional courses at a math, science, and technology center during high school, and focused her undergraduate work on mechanical engineering. She has held internships in Powertrain Development at Chrysler and General Motors, mentored a female high school student interested in engineering, and has worked on nearly every aspect of Ohio State’s EcoCAR.

While working with the Ohio State team, Beth has demonstrated leadership, technical expertise, and diversity. It only seems fitting that at the EcoCAR Year Two Finals she was awarded the Women in the Winner’s Circle Women in Engineering Award, presented by Lyn St. James, a former Indy 500 racer, on behalf of the Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation.

“The award, which is sponsored by the Foundation that Lyn St. James established, recognizes the benefits of diversity in the automotive industry,” said Cindy Svestka, Executive Technical Assistant in Powertrain / Vehicle Integration at General Motors. “By recognizing several of the outstanding women who participate in the EcoCAR competition each year, we have the opportunity to show the importance of having women participate in the design, development, testing, and execution of automotive programs.”

Beth Bezaire receiving the Women in the Winning Circle Foundation Award at the EcoCAR Year Two Finals

In the past year, Beth showcased the importance of vehicle development for the Ohio State team. As a co-team leader, she was a member of the Engine team, focusing on exhaust aftertreatment, emissions control, and integration of the fuel system. She also assisted in battery and mechanical integration, where she worked on fabrication of the fiberglass cover for the rear electric machine (REM) and procuring cooling plates and the heat exchanger for the team’s energy storage system.

“Her desire to continually learn about the technology being applied to her team’s vehicle is exceptional,” said Svestka. “When she doesn’t know something, she finds out where to go to learn about it and then takes it on until she not only understands it but can also teach it to others.”

Beth’s technical experience and teamwork is impressive, but it’s her dedication to women in the field that is truly inspiring.

“It’s important to promote women in engineering for two main reasons,” said Beth. “First, we need to encourage the women that are pursuing engineering and foster fellowship among us so we develop support and camaraderie. Second, we need to promote science and engineering to younger students, both female and male, to give them an understanding of what engineering is and why it’s fun so they will consider it as a future career. This is what the Women in Engineering Award is about.”

With one year left on the Ohio State team, Beth plans to take full advantage of the opportunities provided by EcoCAR and wants an impact on the future of female engineering.

“I think great engineers are people that take initiative. They are inquisitive, keep asking questions, and never stop learning,” said Beth. “That is what I hope to achieve.”

Contributed by Dana Bubonovich, Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition Intern at Argonne National Laboratory

EcoMotors International, an EcoCAR bronze sponsor, recently received a $23.5 million boost from Microsoft giant, Bill Gates, and Khosla Ventures. The funding will allow EcoMotors to finish the development of their opoc engine technology. The opoc engine’s features make it look like a green car superhero: it weighs 50% less and uses 50% less fuel than a regular internal combustion engine and even costs less to manufacture! Read the full story, here.

What do you think? Does the internal combustion engine still have a place in the green car industry today, or will consumers opt for alternatives when making their green car purchases?

*Image from AutoblogGreen

Now that the Year Two Finals are over, the Missouri S&T EcoCAR team is spending the summer making improvements to its vehicle. The team is focused on repackaging the Electrical Storage System, relocating the HVAC system to the rear of the vehicle, calibration of hydrogen detectors and finishing the installation of new fire suppression system in the EcoCAR garage.

The S&T Outreach team has also been busy! In May, the team attended the St. Louis Regional Clean Cities event in St. Louis, Missouri. During the EV Workshop, they learned about the development of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure in the St. Louis Metropolitan area. In early June, the EcoCAR team also participated in the Rolla Summerfest in Downtown Rolla. At the event, the team got an opportunity to showcase their advanced vehicle technology research and spread awareness about the competition.

This week, the team is running an exciting EcoCAR Summer Camp! The pre-college camp will give high school students an idea of what it’s like to work with hydrogen FC-PHEV. The highlights of the week will be working on Unigraphics NX, conducting fuel cell vehicle simulations, performing total fuel cycle well-to-wheel modeling and a visit to the EcoCAR garage.

The S&T team is excited for what is in store in Year Three of the competition! The next big event for the team is Homecoming 2010 on October 1 in the EcoCAR garage. The day is being organized by Angela Rolufs, director of the Missouri Transportation Institute and MS&T can’t wait to participate!

Clockwise from L to R: S&T at the Year Two Finals, Rolla Summerfest, EcoCAR Summer Camp 2010 and St. Louis Regional Clean Cities workshop

In this week’s Mentor Monday post, we are featuring Kelly Pietras, a design system engineer at General Motors, who serves as a mentor for the EcoCAR students at North Carolina State University. Kelly has traveled to North Carolina three times within the past year to review the students’ progress and offer advice ranging from engineering tips to one-on-one career counseling.

While in Toronto for the Year One EcoCAR Finals, Kelly Pietras and NC State students conceptualized, modeled, and tested hybrid powertrains in the virtual world

“EcoCAR is a great opportunity for both GM and the students,” said Kelly. “Not only do the students get to build a physical car, but they also get to experience teamwork in a situation that models a real-life work environment. And for me, it’s always exciting to hear the students’ fresh, new ideas.”

As a new team to competitions, the North Carolina State students concentrated on planning the design and layout of their EREV vehicle, so that when it was finally time to install the system hardware, they didn’t waste any time. Kelly was especially proud that the students were able to get their car running in electric mode, and their efforts were recognized with the Most Improved Team award at the Year Two competition in Yuma and San Diego. Currently, the students are working on equipping their vehicle with a fully-integrated powertrain system, while optimizing driver-friendly design and feasibility.

At GM, Kelly has been working to improve the powertrain experience for customers for 10 years. As an ongoing project, Kelly engineers six-speed front wheel and six-speed rear wheel automatic transmissions, which can be found in cars like the Cadillac CTS and SRX and other full-size vehicles.

“GM is an exciting place to work,” said Kelly. “There’s always something new going on, from technological developments to advancements on existing designs.”

To sum up her involvement with EcoCAR, Kelly says, “I grew up in Detroit, so the auto industry has always been a part of my life. I’ve been inspired by cars from a very young age, and it’s amazing to see that same enthusiasm in such talented young adults.”

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July 2010